NICK THOMPSON AND JOSHUA HAMLYN, TRUMPET SPORTS WRITERS
The weather is finally heating up and so is the preparation for the upcoming spring sports seasons.
While the baseball and softball teams have had the opportunity to travel to get their seasons started, the tennis team is currently indoors. The lacrosse team just recently had their first game outdoors. The track team is currently still in their indoor season. Golf is the lone sport that has yet to conduct any practices or competitions.
“We are planning on having a tournament every weekend in April with a week break for finals and then the conference meet happening the first weekend of May,” Jason Steege, head men’s golf coach, said.
“Golf is nice because it is one of the few sports that can naturally socially distance compared to other sports,” Steege said. “We have asked our athletes to wear masks on the tee boxes and to not grab other players’ clubs, golf balls or the flagstick. In the fall we played all meets with the stick in.”
Tennis is fortunate enough to be able to start their season indoors followed by ending their season outdoors. The team goals are very team-based due to a strong top of the conference and a young core.
“We’re just trying to get yourself ready and take it one week at a time. But for the men we’re a pretty young team. A goal for me is I want us to get better at doubles which I think a lot of these guys are strong in singles. Being a veteran player tends to help I think a little more in doubles so we’re trying to get the guys to play doubles at a college level. Also in both singles and doubles trying to get our minds to be more competitive and tough,” Chris Gustas, head tennis coach, said.
A full preview of the golf and tennis teams will be in the next issue of the Trumpet.
Knights’ softball had their season cut short last year after a nine and three start to the season. The Knights found their early-season success while playing a series of games in Florida over Winter Break. Their season ended due to the cancellation of college spring sports seasons around the country at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.
“A lot of our conversations have been, be grateful for the opportunities that we have and when we do have them let’s take advantage of them, let’s play hard and enjoy the now,” Jamie Muellar, head softball coach, said about the philosophy of the team going into this season.
The Knights began their 2021 season with games in Tennessee and Georgia February 25 through the 28 in which they played Maryville College, Huntington College and Mt. St. Joseph University. The Knights finished the trip with a 5-1 record before returning home to prepare for their next opponents. Muellar also mentioned players to watch for this season.
“Kaci Sherwood, transferred in for us last year from NIACC and she played first base for us and will play it again. In six games this season she hit four home runs and had 12 RBI’s. That is exactly what we are expecting from her,” Muellar said. “In the circle, we got some good returners, Maddie Rog who is a senior for us. In 2019 she was co-pitcher of the year at the conference. We have Lauren Reicks back. She is also a senior. Last year she had an injury that ended her season, so she did not get to play at all last season, so we are really excited to have her back.”
Knights’ softball is coming into this season with an experienced roster looking to be competitive and continue to grow as a team for the future of the program as a whole.
“Our conference season looks different this year. It will be three games against each conference opponent, so we have 24 conference games. Our aq this year will come from the regular season instead of the conference tournament, said Coach Mueller about the structure of this season. So, there is just that extra pressure that each conference game is that much more important. Other than those conference games we have a couple of MIAC opponents.”
The Knights continue non-conference action against Washington University in St. Louis for a series on March 13 and the 14 in St. Louis, Missouri. Their first home series opens A-R-C play and is against the University of Dubuque on March 20 and 21.
Knights baseball also had their season cut short last year after a nine and one start to the season. Their season began with a doubleheader against Bethel in U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota and carried into a series of games in Florida where things came to a halt with the cancellation of spring sports by the NCAA.
“Our guys went into the offseason doing the right things and working hard in the weight room preparing for the end of January,” Joel Holst, head baseball coach, said. “We are in that sixth week of practices and our guys were definitely ready for some games and are looking forward to the weekends that we have coming up through the end of May. I think the work ethic was established and the team is getting along well which was really established in the fall.”
Knights baseball got their 2021 season underway with a two-game series against No.1 ranked Webster University on February 27 and 28 in Saugett, Illinois. The Knights have a record of 2-2 to start the young season.
“Beginning on the mound, Dylan Gotto has been an all-conference performer for us as a left-handed pitcher and Darren Kilpatrick those two guys obviously will be kind of that cornerstone related to our pitching staff,” Holst said. “Parker Ridge is our returning shortstop, and we expect really big things out of him. JoJo Mcnair is our center fielder and just a really good athlete and provides that spark plug that we got as he hits number one in our order. We’ve got some things positively going with what is going on with our team and we are hoping we can continue to do that.”
Knights baseball is coming into this season with a variety of skill levels on the team looking to grow as one team and be competitive in all facets of the game. The Knights face a tough schedule this season in which they are looking to overcome whatever challenges that may arise for a chance to build on a “team championship environment which is how we work together, how we get along together, and how we support each other,” Holst said.
“We’ve lost the opportunity to go to Florida, but we are having three trips and are excited in terms of our team coming together. Conference season is going to be 32 games which is the most conference games that we will have played. A four-game series is pretty demanding with seven and nine-inning doubleheaders on each day that we are playing,” Holst said. “I think our guys are pretty excited and obviously with the good competition at the beginning we can be tested before we get into our conference competition.”
Knights baseball takes the field for a two-game series against Illinois Wesleyan University on March 13 and 14 in Bloomington, Illinois. Their first home series of the season will be against Central College on March 27 and 28.
Both Knights softball and baseball are excited about getting to play their first regular-season games at their newly renovated facilities, according to Holst and Muellar. To watch games from home, go to www.wartburg.edu/knightvision.